SEMA Las Vegas 2009: Part IV, The Take-Aways

With SEMA a few weeks behind us and plenty of time to digest the show, a few deep thoughts remain:

  • Where will the Japanese manufacturers be in 2010 in making a serious bid for enthusiasts’ dollars as aftermarket support in this segment wanes? Some of the biggest names in the marketplace was absent from the show, challenged by dwindling sales and the weakness of the US dollar.
  • Can domestic aftermarket manufacturers answer the call? From what we saw, the answer is yes. As mentioned in a previous editorial, the Chevy Camaro seems to have singlehandedly revived the aftermarket industry. Even names that have been traditionally aligned with sport compact performance making positive inroads into supporting the domestic car market, the future looks bright for those who have had the foresight.
  • Will hybrids and electric cars damage the aftermarket? From our perspective, yes for the time being. People who purchase cars in this segment aren’t looking for excitement. In many respects, we feel these buyers are completely abandoning the notion of any behind-the-wheel fun. Gas mileage is what they are after, not vehicle dynamics. Nor acceleration. Nor braking. Nor handling. But companies like Tesla are making inroads in offering a package that still keeps in mind that driving should be fun. We keep our fingers crossed.
  • Fractured aftermarket presence in local communities will present a challenge for those car owners who deem that “stock” just isn’t good enough. Even in the car mecca that is Southern California, many “speed shops” have closed their doors due to a declining demand for services. And forget parts sales. Anything that can be purchased in the brick-and-mortar world can be purchased online. Specialized niche services, an excellent reputation and competitive pricing are the bare minimum a retail operation must offers its customers just to survive.
  • OE makes stand to gain from this downturn in the economy by offering those services and parts that a customer just can’t acquire from their local shop. Although this advantage in scale can tilt things in the dealer’s favor, they will have to work hard to change the opinions of car owners who deem them as “stealerships.”

Let us hope that 2010 will be a turnaround year for the OE and automotive industry.

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